Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Jane Aus... Er, Stephanie Barron

Jane Austen, Detective.

I loved the concept but wondered about the execution. Could anyone pull it off, particularly in first person? I shouldn’t have worried. Stephanie Barron does a marvelous job of pulling us right into Jane’s world and she does it all in her inimitable voice.

When Jane’s dear friend Isobel is married to an Earl everything seems to point to a felicitous future for the happy couple. That the Earl falls ill and dies on the eve of their bridal ball seems a cruel vagary of fate. Soon a note arrives that accuses Isobel of murder and she seeks advice from level-headed Jane. Together they must outwit a murderer and a nefarious younger son, and bring the true murderer to justice.

There are now nine books in this series and I have read them all. I have just revisited this, the first, after a couple years and it is as enjoyable the second time as it was the first. Due to the old-fashioned language and phraseology some readers might find this book a bit slow going, but it is well worth the effort. In addition there are actually footnotes in the text that help to explain the more archaic terms and customs of the time. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

All the Tea in China by Jane Orcutt

This Regency offering from Jane Orcutt was just what I have been looking for. A Regency that isn’t totally consumed with balls and the haute ton. The heroine, Isabella, is fascinated when a missionary to China comes to meet her uncle. Her sudden exposure to a world of need beyond her secure social circle jars her faith. She feels led to join the missionary endeavor. When her services are rebuffed, Impetuous Isabella takes matters into her own hands.

What happens is a rousing tale of adventure and faith. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and I particularly liked that the story shifted from England, to life aboard ship, to China. The details of Chinese life and culture were fascinating.

This novel truly deserved its billing as a Rollicking Regency. I thoroughly applaud it and its author. Sadly, Jane has passed away. I would have loved other stories in this style. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

In the Shadow of the Sun King by Golden Keyes Parsons

In the Shadow of the Sun King is a fantastic read based on the author’s family history. It immediately sucks you in and just won’t let go. The characters are compelling, as is their story. The background for the tale is the persecution of the Hugenots in France. When Madeleine Clavell’s family estate is invaded by dragoons, and her sons have to go into hiding in order to avoid being kidnapped and sent to a monastery for a Catholic education, she decides that she must appeal to the king for mercy. She and the Louis had been in love once, long ago. Now she is hoping that the relationship they shared will cause him to spare her family. When his demands exceed what she is able to give, things go from bad to worse for the Clavell’s. They need God’s grace to survive the fury that is rained on them.

With plenty of action and a message of hope and faith this tale had me flipping pages late into the night. It is one of the rare books that will remain on my shelves. I definitely and highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mr. Midshipman Easy by Frederick Marryat

This is more a tip than a review. For anyone who might be researching a regency that has any sort of sea adventure to it, this is a must read, right up there with Patrick O'Brien and C.S. Forester. 

You may have a little trouble finding Marryat in stores, although there are lots of options on Amazon and they have been reprinted many times. Marryat actually served in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars, starting as a 14 year old midshipman in 1806. He worked his way up and became a Post Captain in 1830. He published many books including Mr. Midshipman Easy, Peter Simple, Jacob Faithful, The King's Own and several more. He was credited with sending many men to sea, because of the lifestyle and adventures he painted.

For other novelists he gives us a glimpse into his world that was true not just to its terminologies, (although that is very helpful when it is footnoted!) but to its ideals, its culture, its very heart. His stories are essentially lighthearted so some realities are glossed over, however he would be considered original source material when it comes to custom and habits at sea. Of course his prejudices, and those of his age, also color his world, so be prepared for that.

Anyway as much research as I have done into this area and I had never heard of him until recently, so I thought the info might be helpful to someone else. If you do happen to find Mr. Midshipman Easy, (his most popular), watch for the scene with the duel. It is a hoot.

Must Reads

  • All the Tea in China-Jane Orcutt www.revellbooks.com
  • In the Shadow of the Sun King-Golden Keyes Parsons www.goldenkeyesparsons.com
  • Wings of a Dream-Anne Mateer